The Appellate Court of Connecticut has affirmed a trial court judgment for an attorney in a legal malpractice claim. In
Law Offices of Robert K Walsh v Natarajan, the attorney had sued his former client for his fees representing her in a marital dissolution proceeding. The client had counterclaimed for legal malpractice because the attorney successfully moved to withdrawal on the eve of trial.
In the divorce case, it appeared the client had reached a settlement with her former spouse. However, when they appeared in court to finalize the settlement, the client refused to proceed. The attorney then successfully moved to withdraw from the case. The client then represented herself at trial.
The malpractice action proceeded to trial with the client still representing herself. The trial judge refused to permit her to testify as to the harm she had suffered representing herself at the dissolution proceeding on the basis that it was impermissible to allow a lay person to give an expert opinion. No other expert testified on her behalf.
Under Connecticut law, a plaintiff must offer a legal expert in order establish breach and causation in a legal malpractice claim. The sole exception is when an attorney’s conduct is so obviously negligent, that an expert opinion would become unnecessary. The lower court and the appellate court found that such an exception did not apply in this case and the client had therefore failed to establish all of the elements of her claim.
Decision: Law Offices of Robert K Walsh v Natarajan.doc